Sunday, November 17, 2013
World Prematurity Day 2013
The years have gone by since I became the mother of a premature baby a little over 11 years ago. You'd think that now my little boy (who's not really so little anymore) would seem to be like all the other children.
Yet, I look at him, now a still-little "big" boy of 11 years, with a mischievous smile and his insatiable curiosity, and sometimes I still just see that tiny baby. Born at 30 weeks gestational age, he weighed just 3 lbs and 4/10ths of an ounce at birth (1375g). He was the tiniest baby I had ever laid my eyes upon, let alone held. He was so incredibly small in my arms, especially when compared with his older brother, who was born at 41 weeks, weighing 7 lbs, 9 oz.
Lucky for us both, he was healthy enough at birth for me to hold him for about 30 seconds before the neonatal team whisked him away in a warmer to the NICU.
30 seconds doesn't seem like much, but those 30 seconds were so precious to me. And a few days later, when they let me hold him outside of his isolette for all of TEN minutes - what a gift that was.
All those other hours I watched him, attached to tubes and monitors... I think I may have been in some sort of state of shock. All those other mothers around me went home after 2 days, or some 5 days, holding their babies and sharing their smiles. And there I was, discharged from the hospital 2 days after giving birth, holding a polaroid snapshot in my arms of my little baby who had to stay in the hospital, even as I had to leave, and there were no smiles, just holding back the tears. Of course, I came back daily. It was difficult. Figuring out rides. Figuring out life with our family in different places.
Eventually, I managed to borrow an apartment from a couple who had gone to Israel for the summer, who had a place about a mile from the hospital. I stayed there until my little one was almost 34 weeks GA, and then they came home from their trip, so I stayed at the home of another family who lived close to the hospital for the last week of my baby's NICU stay.
It was a roller coaster of a summer. My emotions ranged from fear and sadness, guilt and self blame, to joy and happiness. On the one hand, after weeks of feeling awful while pregnant, I felt SO much better after giving birth. But that meant my baby was born too soon and I'd have to trust strangers to care for him around the clock. I was helpless to do most of the things new mothers do - he was too small to be held, too small to nurse, too small to come home...
Thank G-d, our little boy stayed healthy while he was in the NICU. Besides his billirubin levels rising too high, he never had any complications. And we managed to bring him home (at my insistence) at 35 weeks GA, when he weighed just 4 lbs.
And now, he's much larger than 4 lbs. Back then, he kept me up nights caring for him, nursing him around the clock. I was determined to let him grow. Now I don't have to wake up in the night to take care of him anymore, but I do still find myself seeing glimpses of the tiny baby in the big boy he is today. It's one of those things - it seems I may just never "get over" the experience and emotions of a premature birth... it has become a part of who I am.
If you'd like to read more about my prematurity story, please check out my posts from 2011 and 2012, as well, and please go ahead and read my mother's account of giving birth to her premature baby (me), 40 years ago. Also please read Jamie's prematurity story, her baby recently came home from the NICU.
We are just so grateful for all of the miracles Hashem has shown us. The miracle of life is not one to take for granted.
If you have a prematurity story to share, please feel free to leave a comment with your link or your story!